Edited by Laura T. Raynolds and Elizabeth A. Bennett
The mainstreaming of fair trade from its traditional distribution into conventional channels is a well-known feature of fair trade’s development (including in several chapters in this volume). While this is particularly familiar for Fairtrade certified products placed next to competing brands on supermarket shelves – such as coffee and tea – it is also true of fair trade handicraft products. While fair trade has always operated simultaneously ‘inside and outside’ (Renard 2003, 92) or ‘in and against’ (Raynolds 2000, 299) the market, mainstreaming has undoubtedly amplified this tension. In particular, mainstreaming presents a dilemma for ‘local fair trade organizations’ (LFTOs), those fair trade organizations in the global South that purchase and export local products, making them the mediators between local producers and foreign buyers (on the term LFTO, see Hayes 2006). Although considerable research has sought to understand the effects of mainstreaming on fair trade principles, ideology, messaging, distribution systems and producer and buyer relationships, less research has been completed at the level of the LFTO. Thus, little is understood about the effect of mainstreaming on the business practices of LFTOs. This chapter examines how LFTOs manage the dilemma of simultaneously operating in both fair trade and mainstream markets. This chapter employs the concept of ‘institutional logics’ to better understand and suggest resolutions to this dilemma. Each institutional order has ‘a central logic that guides its organizing principles and provides social actors with vocabularies of motive and a sense of self’ (Thornton and Ocasio 2008, 101). The market is one example of an institutional order.
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